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I was an Officer with the California Highway Patrol (CHP) for about ten years. During my first year on the job, I was injured in an on-duty patrol car collision. I healed and went back to work. Over the next ten years on the job, the injuries to my back flared up, caused me to lose time from work and eventually worsened to the point that I was placed off work completely. During the time I was off, the CHP came under fire in a scandal called, “Chief’s Disease.” The basis of this scandal was that high ranking officials in the CHP were retiring with disability claims and then going on to other jobs that were similar in nature to the jobs they claimed to be unable to do. The CHP formed an investigative unit and investigated the claims. The Chief of the Division that handled this investigative unit, reported to the CHP that the scandal was true and that the former Chief’s WERE abusing the system. He was immediately demoted from his position and replaced with another Chief. (He sued the departed for several million dollars and settled for an undisclosed amount.) The new Chief of the investigative unit put the unit to work and they chose my case as one to “Investigate” even though I was only an Officer and member of the rank and file, not a chief as the media had alleged in the scandal. The CHP completed this investigation with no out side oversight from any other agencies. This was done in a clear conflict of interest, however it allowed them to manipulate the facts, suppress evidence, coerce witnesses and basically operate under the premise that, “The ends justify the means.”

I was arrested, at gunpoint by members of my own department. I was tried on eleven counts of Felony Worker’s Compensation Fraud in December of 2005. Former coworkers and supervisors committed perjury, twisted the facts and hid evidence from my attorney and myself. Overall, they used the criminal justice system to make an example of me to take the heat of the “Chief’s Disease” scandal.

My attorney based our defense on the evidence we had, all of witch pointed to my innocence. At one point I was examined by a spinal specialist who concluded that I was not only disabled, but that I was actually worse off than I thought I was. (This doctor was appointed by the state as an impartial AME (Agreed Medical Evaluator) When it came time to call the doctor as a witness, my attorney informed me that he had neglected to subpoena the doctor and he was unavailable. The doctor in question, goes to China each year to volunteer his medical skills. While good for him… it was bad for me. I was convicted and sentenced in January of 2006. To date, I have filed appeals that were denied and a Writ of Habeas Corpus, charging ineffective assistance of counsel and Fraud on the part of a government official (suppressing exculpatory evidence). The superior court agreed that my attorney was ineffective, however I should have filed the writ sooner. They also agreed that it’s possible that evidence was suppressed, however I should have reasonably known about the evidence anyway so it is irrelevant. The Writ was denied in August of 2010. So now I have lost everything, my marriage, my cars, every dime I had to my name, my status, my ability to find work due to my felony record, and worst of all… I’ve lost my faith in the criminal justice system. If it hadn’t happened to me, I don’t know if I would believe it myself… and this is the condensed version.

User story by Michael Jones in California

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3 Responses Leave a comment

  1. Mathew Higbee, Esq says:

    Michael… that is one of the more disturbing stories that have been posted. I am sorry to hear about that. It sounds like you could have a malpractice claim against you attorney (especially with the appellate courts findings).

    I hope there is some form of post-conviction relief (expungement or reduction) that can help you start to rebuild.

    I wish I had better words of inspiration and ones that did not sounds so trite as I hope you don’t lose faith in more important things than the the justice system… such as yourself and those in your life who care about you and depend on you. God willing, something good may come out it.

    • Michael Jones says:

      Thank you Mathew,
      My faith and sense of humor are all I have left… only because the CHP hasn’t found a way to take that too! This situation has financially crushed me and to that end I have been unable to retain counsel that would take the case on a contingency basis. To pour salt in it… I was recently told by yet another series of attorneys, who, by the way, wouldn’t help without being paid up front,that I have gone past the statute of limitations in filing suit against my former defense attorney. And, since I was ordered to repay my salary to the CHP for the year I was on disability… I owe them over 70,000.00 in restitution. As I understand it I cannot expunge the conviction until that is paid off. So, looks like I can expect to be free of all this about the time satan declares snowboarding as the new favorite sport in hell. All I can say is… “WHO WILL POLICE THE POLICE? AND WHERE ARE THEY NOW?”

      • Mathew Higbee, Esq says:

        A couple of things…

        1. I am not sure how aggressive they are in attempting to collect, but you may be able to have that debt discharged in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
        2. It is not an absolute requirement that restitution be paid. Meaning, you can argue around it. The chances of success in your case could be increased if you could show that but for the ineffective counsel, you would not have been convicted.
        3. Also, depending on what Penal Code section it was, it may be able to be reduced to a misdemeanor… again, no requirement for restitution to be paid, but it will take a sympathetic judge.

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